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PCR #313. (Vol. 7, No. 12) This edition is for the week of March 20--26, 2006.
Mike's RantMike's Bust
Hello, gang! Well, it's been quite an exciting week for me but unfortunately it comes with a little sadness. Shall we begin?

A City Called "Destiny"....Florida Indie Movies Review: "The Bite"  by Will Moriaty
"Inside Man"  by Mike Smith
Live Evil Update....Congrats to Unearthed  by Mark Terry
Moore is no Joke....Suess Birthday....A "Blackification" Day  by Brandon Jones
God Bless....We Are Family....My Favorite Films -- Chapter 12: "Smokey and the Bandit"  by Mike Smith
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It is with great sadness that I report the death of my friend and next door neighbor, Stephen Stull, who passed away last Friday at the age of 58. I moved to Leavenworth on a hot July day in 1999. When I pulled up to the new house with my son and two friends that were helping me move, we were greeted by our new neighbor, who brought out (4) ice cold bottles of soda for us. Over the years, I learned much about Steve. He had served his country gallantly during the Vietnam war, earning many accolades, including the Bronze Star and Purple Heart. He loved rock and roll, especially the music from that era. Many times I would come home to hear the Doors blasting through his window. He was a great story teller and would often hold me in suspense as he discussed the many concerts and bands he had seen. I don't know how many music fans could lay claim to the fact that they attended Woodstock, the Rolling Stones at Altamont AND the incredible Isle of Wight concert, but Steve did. He was also a fine poet, his words on his experiences in Vietnam published and read all over the world. Most importantly, he was a good friend to my son and I and he went all to quickly.

Longtime friends know that I was adopted as an infant. When I turned 21, my adoption records were opened and I obtained my original birth certificate. I often toyed with the idea of tracking down my birth parents. Not to judge them or cause them trouble, but to see what they were like. My birth certificate told me many things. My birth mother was 25 when she had me, she had already had five children by the time I was born, and that she lived in Cleveland, Ohio. Many times over the years, Matt would ask me if I'd made any attempt to find her, sometimes calling me "Jeff," which was the name on the birth certificate. A few years ago, I looked in the Cleveland White Pages and copied down a name and phone number of a woman who shared my birth name. I promptly forgot about it and put it in my desk. This past Sunday, while packing my desk up for my move, I found the piece of paper and stuck it to my computer monitor. A few hours later, I picked up the phone and called. I started leaving my information on the answering machine, saying, "Hello, my name is Michael and I'm calling from Kansas. I was born in Cleveland in September 1960 and was given up for adoption. My birth name is Jeffrey Gammello and if you have any......" At that moment, the phone was picked up and a young girl said, "I think you should talk to my mom." A few minutes later, I was speaking to Debbie Gammello who, it turns out, is one of my 10 new brothers and sisters! I'm still piecing together the whole story. Apparently I've been the family urban legend for the past 40-plus years, with the siblings I've talked to telling me that there was always a rumor of a baby named Jeff, but that no one would ever confirm it. I hope to have more info next week. Today I received a package in the mail from Debbie which had some photos of the family. When my girlfriend saw the photo of my birth mother she started crying because she says I look just like her. So far I've talked with brothers Joe and Dino and sisters Debbie, Kimberly, Kelly and Terry. It's been quite a rush as you can imagine, but I wouldn't have missed it for the world. I'm sure that I'll be heading to Ohio soon to finally meet them. And yes, I'll take plenty of pictures!

Starring: Burt Reynolds, Sally Field, Jackie Gleason and Jerry Reed
Directed by: Hal Needham

FIRST SEEN: Twin Bays 4 Theatre, Tampa, Florida
FAVORITE LINE: "I'd like to kick his ass just once!"
FAVORITE SCENE: Jackie Gleason interrogates a group of would-be car thieves.

  • Academy Award nomination for Best Film Editing
  • Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress (Musical/Comedy) Sally Field

    One of the highest-grossing comedies of all time, and second only to "Star Wars" at the 1977 box office, "Smokey and the Bandit" took filmgoers by storm when it was released. The story of a man, a Trans Am and 400 cases of Coor's beer, the film played to packed houses all over the country. At the time it was made, Burt Reynolds had established himself as the biggest movie star in Hollywood. When he agreed to star in a film directed by one time stunt man Hal Needham (and brought friend Jerry Reed along to the project), fans were hoping for another film like "Gator" or "Shamus." What they got was a film that was as big on laughs as it was on stunts. Field, who would win her first Oscar a few years later, is a struggling dancer who has run away from her wedding to the sherrif's son. Meanwhile, the Bandit and his friend must accept the challange of Big and Little Enos Burdette (Pat McCormack and Paul Williams) to drive to Texas and return to Georgia with the aforementioned beer. They are pursued along the way by Sherrif Buford T. Justice, played with great gusto by Jackie Gleason. I was working at Twin Bays when the film opened, and, if memory serves me correctly, we played the film for 27 straight weeks.

    "Smokey and the Bandit" was a hit all over the world, establishing Reynolds as an international star. Gleason earned a new generation of fans with his portrayal of Sherrif Justice while Fields, who began a long relationship with Reynolds after filming, rekindled memories of her early television comedies with her performance. The film inspired two sequels, though Reynolds only has a brief cameo in the third movie. "Smokey and the Bandit" was the first of several successful films that Reynolds did with Hal Needham, though that loyalty may have cost Burt an Oscar when he turned down James Brooks' offer to play astronaut Garrett Breedlove in "Terms of Endearment" in order to star in Needhams' "Stroker Ace." Jack Nicholson was cast instead an won his second Oscar, as Best Supporting Actor, for the role.

    Next week I'll get ready for baseball season when I take a swing at "A League of Their Own."

    Well, that's it for now. Have a great week. See ya!

    "Mike's Rant" is ©2006 by Michael A. Smith.  Webpage design and all graphics herein are creations of Nolan B. Canova. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2006 by Nolan B. Canova.